There have been many pleasing aspects to Malaga’s start to the season; one in particular though is the return to form of Spanish winger Joaquin. Before the season began there was huge uncertainty over the club’s short term future. They had just been forced to sell Santi Cazorla to Arsenal in order to meet payment demands and observers wondered whether the club could be this year’s Villarreal.
Fortunately for the club the pre-season issues seem to have galvanised the team and their results thus far have been fantastic. One of the key ingredients in this transformation has been the return to form of the 31 year old Joaquin Sanchez Rodriguez. Now in his second season at Malaga the former Spanish International has lead by example and put in a string of top level performances already.
For too long Joaquin has frustrated coaches, fans and spectators alike with his lack of consistency. He was first identified at a young age whilst playing for Real Betis and was selected for the 2002 World Cup as a result of his sparkling displays. His form continued to improve and he became one of Betis’ most important players after he had helped them back to the Primera Division. He contributed 45 assists and 24 goals in his final four seasons with the club before he was eventually sold to Valencia in 2006 for €25 million.
The stage seemed set for Joaquin to continue his advancement and now prove on a bigger stage that he was ready for the challenge. Although his time with Los Che was fairly successful for the club the fans never saw the best of him consistently. There were flashes of brilliance and occasionally a run of games where defenders chased his shadow and he demonstrated his ability. However, it just didn’t happen often enough for a player with as much ability as Joaquin.
When he was at Betis everyone knew about him and everybody knew of his potential from a young age. At Valencia he was not guaranteed a starting place and was no longer the prodigal son. He had rivals for his position and clearly the pressure of feeling as if you have to perform got to Joaquin and unfortunately rather than inspiring him it brought him back into his shell. He was out of favour with the national team too who were finally fulfilling their potential and a move away from Valencia was now needed.
In the summer of 2011 Malaga went on a huge spending spree; one of the less expensive signings though was that of Joaquin who they secured for €4 million. It was a new force in Spanish football who were set to usurp Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table. However, this summer everything went awry and the club were forced to sell one of their prized assets in order to remain in business. Many feared that the club could go into complete meltdown but fortunately the club has had an upturn in fortunes.
Some of this was as a direct result of qualifying for the Champions League where Joaquin’s performances were simply stunning. He was not only excelling for the team, he was leading by example for the first time in many years. During spells in the game he was everywhere and this became infectious for the rest of the Malaga players. This form has continued into the group stages where they currently sit top of their group having won both of their opening fixtures.
This form has not just been shown on the European stage; his domestic form in the league has been scintillating. Despite all the negativity before the season commenced Malaga currently lie in third place in the league and have produced some wonderful displays already.
Often in the face of adversity many shrink and cower at the struggles ahead. However, so far this season it appears to have re-invigorated Joaquin and we are now seeing just what an exceptional talent he really is.
Written by Andy Hunter
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